Steve Scott, Rep. Peter King

WCBS 880

Rep. King: National Guard Troops Can Have 'Real Role' At Mexican Border

April 05, 2018 - 2:39 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- President Donald Trump has ordered the National Guard to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border until his wall can be built.

Trump signed a proclamation Wednesday ordering the Secretary of Defense to support the Department of Homeland Security in securing the Southern border to stop the flow of drugs and people.

The proclamation orders the agency heads to submit a report within 30 days outlining what other steps can be taken.

Trump said Thursday that he wants 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops on the border.

Trump said "lawlessness" at the Southern border is "fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security, and sovereignty of the American people," adding that his administration "has no choice but to act."

U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-New York) sits on the House Homeland Security Committee. He told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott that he believes the National Guard does serve a purpose on the border.

“I do believe there’s a real role for the National Guard, and not just so far as illegal immigration and people coming to the country illegally, but there’s a real threat from the international narco-terrorist gangs that are using the southern border to get opioids and drugs into the country, so I think the National Guard serves a purpose,” King said.

King noted that there are limits as to how the military can be used at the border because of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the use of the military for law enforcement purposes without the approval of Congress.

But he noted that presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both deployed the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border previously..

“Under President Bush, back in, I guess it was 2005, 2006, he sent 6,000 National Guard troops down. Two years ago, President Obama sent out a few thousand National Guard troops,” King said. “So I think it does serve a real purpose.”

King also said he supports Trump’s border wall proposal, and said the idea should be set aside from the political tone it has taken on.

“I also believe that the wall is essential, and I know this has taken on a whole political dynamic, but to me, the wall adds to the security, and it really is a security issue. I know it gets bogged down or it gets very emotional about being an immigration issue,” he said. “But it really is a question of security. We have to do a better job of securing the borders. And the wall would be a positive help. And 10 years ago, you had Democrats and Republicans both voting for it. Now it’s become a political football.”

King said the National Guard troops, who will be unarmed, could perform many roles along the border – and those roles will need to be clearly delineated.

“I think we have to be very specific as to what their orders are; what the rules of engagement are; if they ever can have access to weapons, again, do they have any rights at all as far as apprehending people? So all of that, I think, has to be worked out in advance to make sure that there’s no tragedy later on; that there’s no misunderstanding,” he said. “It all should be worked out.”

King said further that New York National Guard troops should join in the effort if asked.

“The New York National Guard has always responded in the past. They’ve been in Iraq, they’ve been in Afghanistan, and I believe there was a national security issue with the southern border, so I think that if the National Guard is requested from New York, that they should go – the same as they would in any other event,” he said.

The congressman said governors should not refuse to cooperate with Trump on the issue.

“It’s a very bad precedent to set to be picking and choosing what engagement you’re going to have,” King said.

King said he thinks the timetable for the National Guard deployment will likely be measured in months rather than years, but he warned that Trump needs to be clear what the goal and purpose for the troops will be.

"It’s very important not to send them down there and forget about them. They serve a real role. It’s a very valuable asset. And you can’t just waste them having them sitting around doing nothing,” King said. “So if they’re going down there now with all the fanfare and all the publicity, we have to make sure there’s a real purpose for them to serve. If we can put some kind of a time limit on it, so that they will know and the families will know how long it’s going to take, so, but again, this is a legitimate national security purpose, and that’s why I would support it.”

(Copyright 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)